Here's some highlights from agenda item #3:
- VTA has accepted Clipper cards since February 16th.
- The two customer service centers at Embarcadero station and Bay Crossings booth at the Ferry Building is open for business.
- Caltrain ended 8-ride tickets in February and monthly passes starting with the March pass.
- BART is spending the month of march activating their ticketing machines to also be able to add Clipper e-cash. All stations are to be ready by the end of March.
- Golden Gate Ferry begun installing their new self-service ticketing machines, but one of the unions for Golden Gate Ferry employees filed a complaint with the federal government about the loss of jobs.
- Muni will be transitioning the "M" pass to Clipper only and starts with the April pass.
Two big "Contract Actions" the committee must decide on:
- A "change order" of $450,000 for additional Customer Service center support. The complaints about Caltrain are overwhelming the telephone lines that they need additional people to take-on the help.
- An amended "change order" of $750,000 for Clipper "implementation, and design improvements, enhancements, and materials." They grossly underestimated how much was needed to properly fund Clipper's needs.
Other Key Items:
Caltrain has been taking a serious toll on Clipper and their customer service areas, and the reason is for the extremely complex system that has to be used. Statistically, Caltrain is only 2% of Clipper's transaction volume, but more than half of the phone calls to the customer service center is about Caltrain problems.
Clipper and the MTC have already taken steps to mitigate the large number of issues with Caltrain passengers:
- Refunds are being processed on a modified process where calling a customer service center and successfully appealing the issue will result in the agent authorizing a refund on the spot. This is only temporary and will at least last until April 1st. The normal procedure for a refund can take up to three weeks, if approved.
- Clipper's customer service office has hired ten more people to answer calls for the next three months.
- MTC and Clipper are spending more on customer education with outreach events, additional banners, labels, stickers and signage, sending e-mails, and modifying the telephone menu to provide Caltrain passengers tips on using the card.
- MTC consultants have been riding the trains and observing customers at platforms to find out what problems they are facing.
In another topic, a citizen complained to the Operations Committee about having no resolution for disabled passengers' authorized attendants being unable to utilize Clipper. This creates a challenge for the MTC and Clipper because there is no set policy on what should be done on how an attendant can receive the discount fare benefit when accompanying the disabled passenger.
MTC has four proposals to resolve it:
- For buses and light rail, attendants pay cash fare (not Clipper e-cash). For BART, passengers will still use the red discount tickets.
- The attendant gets their own RTC discount card.
- Attendant rides free of charge when accompanied by the disabled passenger.
- The disabled passenger is issued two RTC cards, the second card goes to the attendant.
Just today, Clipper announced the Glen Park station's ticketing machines are now able to add Clipper value. The other station that can also add value is at the new West Dublin/Pleasanton station. Let's hope all the stations will be ready by the end of the month.
While I understand the Caltrain system on Clipper is quite complex with a zoning system, 8-rides, monthly passes, minimum balances, and the need to deduct the maximum fare, it really is becoming a big problem. With all the problems, the MTC has to spend more money to get it all fixed and cleaned-up.
Who takes the blame for all these Caltrain issues: MTC/Clipper for setting-up complex policies and no automated add value machines at stations, Caltrain for such a complex fare system, or the passengers for not educating themselves by reading the brochures and noticing the signage near every train door talking about tagging-off?
I don't ride Caltrain on a regular basis, but I know how to use my Clipper card correctly and follow the instructions because I educated myself by reading the brochures and paying attention to the signage telling me what to do. I know that hundreds of people have been reading my blog's article about using Clipper correctly, but I'm not sure how many actually read it thoroughly and followed the steps I told you about. With all honesty, passengers are to blame when they mess-up and not follow the steps they are told to do, and it's not that complicated when you understand the reasons why certain rules needs to be followed. Clipper is to blame if there's a technical glitch, or if the card readers are broken or placed in poor locations.
I'm hoping Clipper will install some add value machines at Caltrain stations (or at least major stations). While the card only accounts for 2% of the overall transactions for Clipper, Walgreens is becoming a popular place to get pain meds and Caltrain passes because you are standing on your feet for a long time in line at the photo counter to add Clipper value.
That's all for now, have a great weekend.